Hour of the Wolf
The delicate, dangerous line between genius and insanity is brilliantly plumbed in this haunting film from Ingmar Bergman that's "a dazzling flow of surrealism, expressionism and full-blooded Gothic horror" (The Observer). Haunted by demons past and present, artist Johan Borg (Max von Sydow) fights a losing battle to retain his sanity and maintain his artistic prowess. His wife Alma (Liv Ullmann), desperate to help him, finds herself starting to share his hallucinations. But as Johan's mind continues to unravel, Alma is forced to choose between her love and her life.
- Brand-new digital film transfer presented in the original aspect ratio (1.33:1)
- Original Swedish audio
- Commentary by Bergman biographer Marc Gervais
- "The Search for Sanity" featurette
- On-camera interviews with Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson
- Photo galleries: Bergman at work, Hour of the Wolf
- Original theatrical trailer
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They become accustomed to living on the island. Johan goes around and does some sketches. Alma finds his diary under the bed and reads it. At one point Johan is on a rocky coast and a boy gets into a fight with him and Johan kills him and dumps him in the water. It's hard to tell if this is a dream or not. Bergman shows the episode but turns the sound off. It's like a silent movie within the rest of the movie. But it might have really happened - we got to this episode when Johan was confessing to Alma that the scratch/bruise he had wasn't from a snake like he had told her.
A neighbor, the man who owns the island comes and invites Johan and Alma to his house for a dinner party. The food might not be so great but he can promise good wine he says. They take him up on it. It's a surreal dinner. They are treated to a puppet show where Bergman apparently filmed a real actor and made it look like he was a marrionette. (Clever trick). The people at the party are obscurely threatening and it didn't look like Johan and Alma were having a swell time.
After that the movie becomes a mash-up of dreams and reality, making it almost impossible to explain what happened. It reminded me of Stindberg's A Dream Play actually.
I liked this movie despite the fact that it was one of the least accessible films I've ever seen. (Even for Ingmar this was out there.) But, it had a convincing air of menace, a great look and feel, and hey, it was definitely different.
If you're new to I.B. you might try Smiles of a Summer Night or Wild Strawberries first. If your hip to Bergman's middle period: The Silence, Persona, Passion of Anna, Shame - you'll likely dig this too.
johann (max von sydow), and his wife alma (liv ulmann), retreat to an island with one another and try to live a serene, peaceful life while johann works on his art. to say the least, it doesn't exactly pan out.
slowly but surely, johann's demons pursue him and whether they actually 'exist' or not is neither here nor there as far as the message of the movie goes. the most crucial scene is when the puppet show takes place in the demons' castle, and mozart's "magic flute" is done by the birdman, papageno. the darkness and meaninglessness of the human condition is reflected in the lines of mozart's character:"eternal night, eternal night, when whilst thou flee? when will mine eye the daylight see?" while these lines are recited by the birdman after the puppet show by papageno, a slow close up is gotten on his intensely evil face, and the lines are delivered with reverence and an inflection of utter doom and hopelessness. the answer is what johann already knows all too well--never. the artist's (and, by extension, man as a whole) attempts to know reality, to understand the purpose of his life and the meaning of existence, will come to naught, and he will be particularly unfortunate since, unlike the rest of the human race, he alone realizes the shadow of ephemerality and incomprehensibility cast all over life. the beginning and the end of the movie are more or less rational, in that there is nothing left but for johann to lose his mind. johann and alma, despite their intense love for one another, are just as cut off and unknown to one another as all human beings, and her attempts to save him are futile.
this film is a masterpiece, and masterfully utilizes the surreal and the imaginative to display bergman's unpleasant truth.
Some viewers have complained that this film lacks the meaningful symbolism of many other Bergman works. Though arguably true, this criticism doesn't seem relevant here. The images in "Hour of the Wolf" are chosen for their disquieting gut-level impact, not for grand symbolic reasons. People who enjoy surrealism, 1930s horror movies, and intimate character studies will find this film thoroughly rewarding.
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